TRENTON – Fourteen NJ Transit workers are suing the agency for not doing enough to prevent attacks and abuse from passengers.

They sued NJ Transit for negligence last week in U.S. District Court. Each is seeking more than $150,000.

The events detailed in the complaint happened during the pandemic, and some related to the passengers’ refusal to wear a mask as required at the time. More often, the incident stemmed from a passenger’s attempt to ride the train without paying the fare.

While all the incidents happened in the last two years, the lawsuit cites other cases dating back to 1992 in which passengers attacked NJ Transit workers as evidence the agency did nothing to prevent it or better respond.

“Despite the lack of any training in law enforcement, self-defense, psychology, and other necessary subjects, (NJ Transit) required its train crew employees to assume the role of first responders/law enforcement officers with respect to passengers and others on board its trains, at its stations, and at its station platforms,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit said NJ Transit didn’t protect workers from assaults by passengers, provide enough police and other security on trains and at stations, give workers self-defense weapons like mace, pepper spray and Tasers, avoid overcrowding and have cameras, among other steps.

It notes a new law was enacted in January that stiffens potential penalties for abusive passengers, including suspensions and bans from using the transit service.

Here are the incidents cited in the lawsuit:

Angel Arroyo of Elizabeth, a rear brakeman on a Coast Line train, was attacked in July 2021 on the platform in Rahway after removing a passenger from a train who repeatedly refused to wear a mask. There were no police there for 10 to 15 minutes.

Raymond Byers of Green Brook, a crew member on a Northeast Corridor Line train, was threatened in August 2021 by a passenger with a knife after telling two passengers their tickets were invalid and removing them. There weren’t police in Secaucus at the time, though they later apprehended the passengers.

Tammy Muhammad-Whiteside of Irvington, a conductor on the Port Jervis line, in October 2021 was threatened with a switchblade knife by a passenger she made exit the train because the passenger wouldn’t wear a mask and became irate. It was at least the passenger’s third incident involving NJT workers.

Jason Doyle of Atlantic Highlands, Craig Kirkland of Mount Holly and Naythanuel Rodriquez of Howell, each of them members of a Northeast Corridor train crew, were spit on and assaulted in August 2021 by a passenger who, with a companion, tried to evade paying a fare by moving between rail cars and levels. In a fracas at the Linden station, the passenger pulled out a handgun that was dropped and kicked away.

Lionel Giron of Woodbridge, a conductor, was part of the incident that involved Byers as well as the incident involving Doyle, Rodriquez and Kirkland.

Ibrahim Ramirez of Roebling, a passenger conductor on the Northeast Corridor Line, in April 2021 was attacked by a passenger he removed from the train for not having a ticket and for blaring loud music. He suffered a concussion, cuts and leg and back injuries.

Michael Sparacello of Toms River, a passenger conductor on the Northeast Corridor Line, was attacked by a passenger after breaking up an argument between a passenger and ticket collector in August 2020.

Jeannine Jones of Somerset, a crew member on a Northeast Corridor Line train, was spit on in the face by a passenger denied entry to a train for not paying the fare or wearing a mask in June 2021.

Lindsay Rae Coppola of North Brunswick, a crew member working on the Northeast Corridor in December 2021, was tackled from behind by a passenger who wouldn’t wear a mask and refused to pay the fare, citing the train’s overcrowding.

Fabian Melo of Elizabeth, a train crew member working a late-night Northeast Corridor train on May 30, 2022, was assaulted on the platform in Elizabeth by some from a group of 11 passengers who wouldn’t pay the fare after boarding in Woodbridge. A week earlier, Melo had hot coffee poured on him by a passenger.

Stephen McKenna of Toms River, a crew member on the Northeast Corridor, was attacked by a passenger who boarded in New York and refused to pay the fare in February 2022.

Kyle Greaves of Manalapan, a train crew member on the Raritan Valley Line, was spit on by a passenger and felt threatened by a mob of others who had to switch to his train at New York Penn Station after their original one was disabled. He hid for safety in an empty railcar. This happened about two weeks ago, on June 29.

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The lawsuit was first reported by New Jersey Monitor.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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